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Christopher Sommerfield



  • B.S., Geology, West Chester University, 1986
  • M.S., Marine Science, Stony Brook University, 1993
  • Ph.D., Coastal Oceanography, Stony Brook University, 1997


Geological oceanography; estuarine, coastal and shelf sedimentary processes; radionuclide methods in oceanography and sedimentology

Research Interests

I am geological oceanographer specializing in marine and estuarine sedimentary processes.  A focal point of my research is the nature of sediment fluxes along land-to-sea hydrologic pathways, and the influence of these fluxes on coastal geomorphology, water quality, and carbon cycling.  Recent work in my lab centers on identifying and quantifying human impacts on estuarine circulation and sedimentation, and the implications of these impacts on sustainability.  Another focus is tidal wetland morphodynamics, including natural and anthropogenic influences on salt marsh accretion and carbon sequestration.

A research specialty of mine is use of radionuclides (234Th, 7Be, 137Cs, 210Pb, 14C) as tracers and chronometers.  Measured distributions of radionuclides in water and sediments convey information on particle sources, transport pathways, and sedimentation rates, and results of radionuclide studies can be applied to a broad range of topics in marine and estuarine science.


  • MAST492: Marine Environmental Studies (3 credits, undergraduate)
  • MAST637: Geological Oceanography (3 credits, graduate/undergraduate)
  • MAST831: Coastal and Estuarine Sedimentology (3 credits, graduate)


Sommerfield, C.K., Duval, D.I., and Chant, R.J. Estuarine sedimentary response to Atlantic tropical cyclones. In review for Marine Geology.

Boyd, B.M., Sommerfield, C.K., and Quirk, T.E., 2017. Hydrogeomorphic influences on salt marsh sediment accumulation and accretion in two estuaries of the U.S. Mid-Atlantic coast. Marine Geology, 383: 132-145.

McSweeney, J.M., Chant, R.J., Wilken, J.L. Sommerfield, C.K. Suspended-sediment impacts on light-limited productivity in the Delaware Estuary. Estuaries and Coasts. DOI 10.1007/s12237-016-0200-3

Unger, V., Elsey-Quirk, T., Sommerfield, C.K., and Velinsky, D.J., 2016. Stability of organic carbon accumulating in Spartina Alterniflora-dominated salt marshes of the Mid-Atlantic U.S. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 181: 179-189.

Boyd, B.M. and Sommerfield, C.K., 2016. Salt marsh accretion and sediment accumulation in a managed tidal wetland complex of Delaware Bay. Ecological Engineering, 92: 37-46.

McSweeney, J.M., Chant, R.J., Sommerfield, C.K., 2016. Lateral variability of sediment transport in the Delaware Estuary. Journal of Geophysical Research 121: 725-744.

Sommerfield, C.K., 2015. Qualities and limitations of fluvial suspended-sediment data published by the U.S. Geological Survey. Journal of Coastal Research, 32: 719-724.

Sommerfield, C.K. and Nittrouer, C.A., 2014. Comment on "Eel River margin source-to-sink sediment budgets: Revisited" by J.A. Warrick [Marine Geology, 351 (2014) 25–37], Marine Geology 357, 401-403.

Kemp, A.C., Telford, R.J., Horton, B.P., Anisfeld, S., Sommerfield, C.K., 2013. Reconstructing Holocene sea level using salt-marsh foraminifera and transfer functions: lessons from New Jersey, USA. Journal of Quaternary Research, 28: 617-629.

Moskalski, S.M. and Sommerfield, C.K., 2013. Effects of northeaster storms on water level and turbidity in a Delaware Bay subestuary. Journal of Coastal Research, 29: 205-213.

Kemp, A.C., Sommerfield, C.K., Vane, C.H., Chenery, S., Anisfeld, S., Horton, B.P., Nikitina, D., 2012. Use of lead isotopes in developing chronologies for recent salt marsh sediments. Quaternary Geochronology, 12: 40-49.

Moskalski, S.M., and Sommerfield, C.K., 2012. Suspended sediment deposition and trapping efficiency in a Delaware salt marsh. Geomorphology, 139–140: 195-204.

Moskalski, S.M., Sommerfield, C.K., and Wong, K.C., 2011. Oceanic and hydrologic influences on flow and water properties in the St. Jones River estuary, Delaware. Estuaries and Coasts, 34: 800-813.

Elsey-Quirk, T., Seliskar, D.M., Sommerfield, C.K., and Gallagher, J.L, 2011. Salt marsh carbon pool distribution in a Mid-Atlantic lagoon, USA: Implications for sea level rise. Wetlands, 31: 87-99.

Sommerfield, C.K. and Wong, K.C., 2011. Mechanisms of sediment flux and turbidity maintenance in the Delaware Estuary. Journal of Geophysical Research, 116, C01005, DOI 10.1029/ 2010JC006462.


• Geological Oceanography• Coastal-Zone Management


CEOE School & Departments

School of Marine Science & Policy

Advancing the understanding, stewardship, and conservation of estuarine, coastal, and ocean environments.

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Department of Geological Sciences

Discovering how geological processes have operated over various time scales to create and influence the planet’s surface environments.

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Department of Geography

Investigating the interactions between people and the environment and the processes that explain the location of human and natural phenomena.

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College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment • 111 Robinson Hall • Newark, DE 19716 • USA • Phone: 302-831-2841
Geography: 302-831-2294 • Geology: 302-831-2569 • Marine Science and Policy: 302-645-4212 • E-mail: ceoe-info@udel.edu

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